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Indiana University of Pennsylvania investing $37 million in dining facilities

| Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, 9:20 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
The future home of the Crimson Cafe on IUP's campus. Photographed on Thursday, September 26, 2013.
Architectural renderings of the Crimson Cafe

Indiana University of Pennsylvania is investing $37 million in dining facilities to offer students a contemporary atmosphere and alleviate crowding by 2016, officials said.

“We really want to be kind of a destination,” said Michael Lemasters, executive director of housing, residential living and dining.

Colleges nationwide are focusing on dining and housing options because studies show that the quality of such services can contribute 25 percent to decision-making when students choose colleges, said Kurt Haapala, an architect at Portland, Ore.-based Mahlum Architects Inc.

“So that's a big deal,” he said. His firm specializes in higher education design but is not involved in IUP's projects.

The 400-seat, $6.5 million Crimson Café will include a Starbucks, a pizza eatery, Burger Studio — a concept of IUP food vendor Aramark — and a grab-and-go soup and salad restaurant. Crimson Cafe is set to open in fall 2014.

The 450-seat North Dining Commons, which has an all-you-care-to-eat format, will be finished in fall 2016.

The existing Folger Dining Hall will be renovated by fall 2015 from a retail food court to another all-you-care-to-eat dining area. It will include chefs at dining room cooking stations, Lemasters said.

When work on Folger and North Dining Commons finishes, crews will demolish Foster Hall, which has a dining facility.

The construction is happening because 7,000 students, a 15 percent increase, are projected to be using campus meal plans in the next several years, and students want menu variety and intimate dining settings, IUP said. Student dining fees, which increased in recent years, will pay for the work. Between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school years, the price of the least expensive meal plan available to all on-campus students — 14 meals per week — increased 11.3 percent to $1,181 per semester.

Senior Steven Dausey, who lives on campus, said he's not bothered by the fee increases because it's a small amount annually. By putting money into its functional facilities, the university is helping to keep the school competitive, he said.

“It would definitely bring a new light to the campus, I believe,” said Dausey, 21, of Glassport.

Kyle Hurlbrink, 22, another senior living on campus, said dining options and building aesthetics didn't factor into his decision to enroll. IUP's accredited business school, campus size, library resources and distance from his home in Reading attracted him.

IUP is the largest of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. For at least 10 years, those schools have been building dorms and dining halls to replace buildings from the 1950s or '60s, spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

“Most of those buildings have lived beyond their life cycle. It's not economically feasible to remodel those. … They need to be replaced,” he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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